Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Writers Strike/Iraq War-Get Me the Numbers

Numbers are a funny thing. A headline recently indicated that the universe weighs less than was thought:

Revised calculations indicate the universe contains less normal and dark matter than previously thought, resulting in a "weight loss" of 10 to 20 percent.

I can't really comprehend what that means--I took my family on a whale-watch boat off Dana point, California last year, and we saw Blue Whales, the largest animal on the planet, which were over 100 feet long and weighed hundreds of tons--I couldn't tangibly grasp that concept, how am I going to do the whole universe?

As I try to get a grip on thse numbers, I read tonight that Jay Leno and David Letterman are giving up huge sums of income because they are not getting paid during the Writer's Guild Strike against the AMPTP:

The TV writers' strike is costing David Letterman and Jay Leno more than $100,000 a night each.
Because the late-night stars have stayed off the job since the walkout began last week, CBS and NBC have stopped paying them, according to TV-industry sources who asked not to be identified and are close to both hosts.

I made $100,000 over several years once, when I was younger and smarter. Most people don't make what these guys make in a year, in a lifetime. While the actions of Leno and Letterman are admirable in favor of the writers who, after all, provide the CONTENT of everything we watch on TV and at the movies, the "numbers" of dollars in actuality are hard on which to get a reality grip...

Forget about everything you have read so far--universe weight included--there are no human brains big enough to wrap around the numbers of Chris Dickey's latest foray into costs of the US incursion in Iraq:

As calculated by the Democratic side of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and released Tuesday, the direct costs of the Iraq war from 2003 through 2008 will be $607 billion. If you add indirect costs ranging from interest payments and deferred investments, oil prices and medical care for thousands of veterans who've lost their health, limbs, faces, eyes and, in some cases, their minds, you're talking about roughly $1.3 trillion over the same six-year span.

In an effort to make those figures comprehensible, the committee tells us that for "the $432 million we spend in Iraq every day"—note, that is $432 million a day, per diem, seven days a three-billion-dollar week, or, looking at it another way, $18 million an hour, $300,000 a minute, $5,000 a second, and so on, ad nauseam—we could enroll 58,000 children in Head Start, hire 9,300 more teachers, or provide health insurance for 513,000 low-income kids. But … why would we want to do any of that? Sounds too much like "tax and spend" and "soft on security." Social responsibility doesn't sell at the polls or on the Hill.

OK. For the price of one day in the death of Iraq, according to the committee's calculations, we could hire 10,700 Border Patrol agents or 14,200 police officers in the United States. But would our Congress and our president ever pass such bills? Would the American people vote for such programs? Nah. Hard to imagine. The Bush administration has bet that most Americans feel pretty comfortable, and pretty safe, just the way they are, and so far it's been right.

The Joint Economic Committee and its Democratic chairman, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, tell us that the first half-decade of the Iraq war is costing each American family of four $16,500. If the politicians had really wanted to make an impression, they should have appealed to our selfishness. With that kind of money, Mr. and Ms. Average and their kids could put a flat-screen TV, or two, in every room of the house, or buy that third or fourth car they've been wanting. Maybe that would get a rise out of the American public. Clearly the loss of 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq hasn't had that much of an impact.

And you thought the universe was heavy!!

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